Friday, May 19, 2006


Orlando Patterson recently dropped an ideological stink bomb on his chums at the New York Times. In an article published March 26th, the Harvard sociologist notes not only the “disconnect” that exists between “millions of black youths” and “the American mainstream,” but also “the failure of social scientists to adequately explain the problem.”

This failure, according to Patterson, has been caused by “a deep-seated dogma that has prevailed in social science and policy circles since the mid-1960’s.” That dogma rejected “any explanation that invokes a group’s cultural attributes” and focused instead on “structural factors like low incomes, joblessness, poor schools and bad housing.”

Translating socio-speak into plain English, Patterson is saying that his professional colleagues have been unwilling to admit that a corrupt subculture has had a devastating impact on millions of young black males. Instead, academics have put all their analytical eggs in economic baskets that exclude the domain of morality.

To the chagrin of ivory tower Marxists, Patterson observes that “countless studies… have found that poor schools, per se, do not explain why after 10 years of education a young man remains illiterate.” Nor do they explain why young black females do so much better than their male counterparts.

What does explain this phenomenon is the group approval given to young males who assert their manhood by shunning literacy, assuming a “cool-pose” persona, and engaging in acts of two-bit bravado. In Patterson’s words, “For these young men, it was almost like a drug, hanging out on the street after school, shopping and dressing sharply, sexual conquests, party drugs, hip-hop music and culture...”

Despite these insights, Patterson isn’t yet prepared to jump professional ship and devotes much of his time taking back with the left hand what the right hand had given. Thomas Sowell, a scholar not subject to the blacklisting pressure that permeates most campuses, fingers more forthrightly the “redneck” culture that is ruining the lives of many young blacks—a culture whose roots run back to the very non-black borderland between England and Scotland.

If Patterson and his cohorts had the courage of a Bill Cosby, their analyses wouldn’t tiptoe around an issue that is obvious to anyone with a modicum of sense and the courage to report what should be obvious to anyone: Subcultures that glorify violence, indolence, and promiscuity affect youngsters every bit as much as vicious racist stereotypes or economic hardship.

The problem with most sociologists isn’t a paucity of data but a lack of backbone. They are loath to criticize the pimps in the music and entertainment industry lest they offend powerful political and cultural play’rs whose power grows in tandem with black degradation.

Senator Daniel Moynihan once remarked, regretfully, that there’s good money to be made in bad schools. The same sociological insight applies to a corrupt subculture.

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